NFC East: Joe Banner

PHILADELPHIA -- Well, that was quick.

Tuesday's events in Cleveland stunned observers around the NFL, but nowhere more than in Philadelphia. The Browns’ recent history has been strangely tied up with that of the Eagles, a phenomenon that continued with the announcement that Ray Farmer would be the Browns' new general manager.

Farmer was the Eagles’ fourth-round pick out of Duke in 1996. He played linebacker and special teams for three years. Farmer’s last season in the NFL was in 1998.

In 1998, Joe Banner was the Eagles’ executive vice president and Michael Lombardi was their director of pro personnel.

Small league, huh?

Farmer’s promotion was not the big shock Tuesday, of course. He has been on the cusp of a general manager’s job for several years after working his way through the scouting and personnel ranks. Farmer interviewed for the Miami Dolphins GM job last month.

The stunning news was the ouster of Banner, who spent 18 years as the Eagles’ top executive, and Lombardi. Their bizarrely brief tenure was also entwined with goings-on in Philadelphia.

Banner left the Eagles in June 2012 and was named CEO of the Browns as they were being purchased by Jimmy Haslam. The head coach he inherited was Pat Shurmur, a longtime Eagles assistant under Andy Reid. Banner hired Lombardi as his GM and the two fired Shurmur at the end of the 2012 season.

Shurmur is now the Eagles’ offensive coordinator.

Banner and Lombardi interviewed a number of head coaching candidates, foremost among them Oregon head coach Chip Kelly. We know how that turned out. Kelly came to Philadelphia and the Browns hired Rob Chudzinski.

Kelly won the NFC East in his first season. Chudzinski won four games.

Still, it was puzzling, from this perspective, when the Browns fired Chudzinski after just one season. In 18 years with the Eagles, Banner worked with three head coaches -- Rich Kotite, Ray Rhodes and Reid. Mike Pettine, hired late last month, became his third head coach in less than two years in Cleveland.

And now Banner and Lombardi are out, Farmer is in and Pettine (a native of Bucks County in suburban Philadelphia) is working for a guy who didn’t hire him.

The Philadelphia connection to Cleveland remains strong, although Eagles fans probably wouldn’t trade places with their Browns counterparts right about now.
[+] EnlargeHowie Roseman
Howard Smith/USA TODAY Sports With the hiring of Chip Kelly, GM Howie Roseman has put his stamp on the Eagles organization.
By all accounts, the guy who kept pushing and ultimately sealed the deal on getting Chip Kelly to coach the Philadelphia Eagles was GM Howie Roseman, whose triumph was a critical step in getting the fan base to trust his ability to run the team. Eagles fans seem, by and large, skeptical about Roseman, who appears to have significantly more power in the organization now with Joe Banner and Andy Reid gone. And as Rich Hofmann writes, this week represented a pretty big turnaround for Roseman in public perception:
And the reality seems to be that Roseman has emerged from this process more powerful than he has ever been. He kind of winces whenever you bring up this stuff, and talks in elaborate circles whenever the subject of who has final personnel control is raised, but just know this:

The answer used to be that Reid had final say. There was no nuance. Now, there is nuance. Now, no one is willing to say that the coach has final say. In fact, Lurie said, Kelly went out of his way to say that he was not into empire-building, that "I just want to collaborate."

Just listening to everybody talk about it, the structure sounds very much like it did when Tom Modrak was the Eagles' general manager, before Reid took total control of the football operation after a few seasons as coach. That is, the general manager picks the players but he does it with the knowledge that the franchise will collapse if he continually gives the coach square pegs for his round holes.

As is the case with every fresh arrangement, the success of this one will depend on wins and losses. If the next couple of years go poorly in Philadelphia, change in the way things operate is likely. If they go very well, you never know, Kelly could develop a thirst for greater power, and move to acquire it. These are the realities of the way things work in the NFL (and any business, really), and as we have been discussing all week our inability to see into the future prevents us from knowing how it will work out.

But what's clear right now is that Roseman has as significant an opportunity as Kelly has to put his stamp on this franchise and make it his own. Team owner Jeffrey Lurie has implemented a power structure in which Kelly and Roseman both report to him, and while that may carry the potential for confusion it also necessitates that the best interests of one are intertwined with the best interests of the other. Roseman and Kelly both find themselves in a position to prove themselves at a higher level than either has ever occupied. So while all of the Thursday talk of collaboration could easily be dismissed as empty, each has good reason to make it a reality. This was a big week for Roseman, as he and the Eagles got their man long after it appeared they would not. The key is to make sure this ends up looking like a good week in retrospect, too. And on that project, Roseman and Kelly are just getting started.

Replacing Reid a challenge for Eagles

December, 31, 2012
12/31/12
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PHILADELPHIA -- It was toward the end of his news conference here Monday afternoon that Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie crystallized the challenge in front of him. Having fired Andy Reid after 14 years as head coach, Lurie now sets himself to the task of finding a new Eagles coach. And after taking questions about it for a while, Lurie offered a moment of abject honesty.

"There's no guarantee I'll make a great decision," Lurie said. "Though I'm confident I will."

The Eagles are heading into uncertain times. There's no disputing the idea that it was time for Reid to go. He's 22-27 over the past three seasons, and as great a coach as he was and still may be, nothing lasts forever. Lurie spoke of the "scattered decision-making" of the past couple of years, and his assessment is accurate. Reid was no longer performing at a high enough level, and it is unquestionably time for the Eagles to move on with a new voice leading the roster and a new face fronting the organization. But the uncertainty about who that will be takes center stage now, arm in arm with the realization that different doesn't always mean better.

"Andy Reid is a gem of a person who was incredibly dedicated to making the Eagles the organization we have been," Lurie said. "He had the love and respect of every individual in this organization, and I look forward to the day when we will welcome him back and introduce him as a member of the Eagles Hall of Fame, because that's inevitable."

So, yeah, all you would-be Reid successors out there: No pressure or anything.

In all honesty, Lurie's job here is about more than finding a new football coach. To effectively replace everything Reid meant to this organization would mean hitting the lottery twice in two decades. Reid helped establish a culture of winning in Philadelphia -- helped build a team and a structure that, for a very long time, was a virtual guarantee every year for 10 or 11 wins and a playoff appearance. He did it, according to the owner, while garnering universal love and respect around the building. These are not small accomplishments, and on a day when seven head coaches and five general managers were fired before the sun went down, it's worth remembering that coaching the same NFL team for 14 years takes something and someone pretty special. And that you don't find that kind of person every single time you make a hire.

So into this breach of uncertainty go Lurie and the Eagles for the first time in 14 years. Lurie spoke about a new organizational structure that grants more control to GM Howie Roseman. Asked to justify this, Lurie spoke of the "voluminous notes" he keeps about past drafts and player evaluations and indicated that he tracks not just which moves the team made but which unmade moves were supported by which of his decision-makers. Effectively, he seemed to be saying that he'd gone back over previous drafts, checked which players Roseman liked against the players the Eagles took, and decided Roseman was generally making good evaluations. This could be interpreted as a dig at Reid or at former team president Joe Banner, but Lurie was certainly hoping it would be received as grounds for faith in Roseman going forward.

"The mistakes that were made in the 2011 draft have little or nothing to do with Howie's evaluations," Lurie said, while explaining that he'd "streamlined" the decision-making process prior to the 2012 draft and believed that one had gone well under Roseman's guidance.

What this means is that the next head coach likely won't have the same amount of control over personnel decisions that Reid had -- that whoever it is must be comfortable working with Roseman while reporting directly to Lurie. This is new, and different, and Lurie can't be certain that it will work. He seemed to sense this as he offered up what amounted to an impassioned recruiting pitch to potential coaching candidates. He said he's got a "very, very defined list of candidates" on which he's been working since the Eagles' record dropped to 4-8, and he spoke of his belief that the Eagles' head-coaching job is the most attractive in the NFL.

I'm not so sure he's right. Whoever comes in to coach the Eagles will have to figure out the quarterback position, where Michael Vick is on the way out, Nick Foles is unproven and this year's draft doesn't appear to offer the kinds of quick-fix solutions last year's did. Whoever it is will be dealing with an organizational structure that's new and untested, supposedly working hand-in-hand with Roseman on talent evaluation. Whoever it is must deal with the nearly impossible expectations of one of sports' most impatient and angry fan bases. And whoever it is will be succeeding the greatest coach the franchise has ever had -- a man who managed to hold the job for 14 years in an era in which few make it as many as four. People will want the job, of course. It will pay beautifully and offer big-market opportunity to succeed. But it's not certain to be the most desired opening out there this offseason. Especially for the kind of guy Lurie hopes to find. Again.

"Someone who is completely comfortable in their role and who they are as a person," Lurie said when asked what he was looking for in a coach. "It's better to find the right leader than it is to make the fastest decision."

This sounds like a man who knows what he's up against here -- one who understands that, due to the standard set by the man he fired Monday, this is both an important and very difficult decision to get right. The Eagles will find a new coach, of that you can be certain. But replacing Andy Reid and all he brought with him might prove to be a different story.

Could Roseman be poised to lead Eagles?

November, 25, 2012
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Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer takes a look this Sunday at Philadelphia Eagles GM Howie Roseman and the extent to which his power in the organization has been increasing over the past couple of years. Jeff points out that Roseman is one of just nine NFL general managers who handle both player evaluations and contract negotiations, and that Roseman got a contract extension of either four or five years this past June when then-team president Joe Banner stepped down.

Now, no one but (maybe) team owner Jeffrey Lurie knows what will become of the Eagles' power structure at the end of this second straight disappointing season. It is widely assumed that coach Andy Reid will be fired after 14 years with the team, but there's been less public speculation about the future of Roseman (a less public individual who occupies a less public role):
But Lurie has made a point since the end of last season to separate Roseman from Reid and the ultimatum he made about the Eagles' needing to show "substantial improvement" on last season's 8-8 record. In Lurie's statements, it's fair to decipher that he believes this is Reid's 3-7 team.

When Lurie spoke at the June news conference announcing Banner's departure, he spent as much time talking about the young "stars" he had in Roseman and new president Don Smolenski as he did about the end of an 18-year partnership with his childhood friend.

To Lurie, the transition from the old to the new was "seamless." Roseman and Smolenski - an "outstanding next generation of executives," as Lurie called them -- would lead the Eagles into their next phase.

So Roseman likely isn't going anywhere. The front office "succession plan" that was announced in June was established to give the Eagles some stability in case Lurie had to fire Reid, which appears all but certain now.

This leads you to believe that Roseman would emerge from a likely Reid firing even more powerful, possibly in a position to select the next coach and assume some measure of the control over player personnel decisions that currently rests exclusively with Reid. It's also possible that Lurie would just clean house and replace Roseman, since Roseman's stamp is on the current flop of a roster along with Reid's. But the signs point to Roseman being considerably safer than Reid, and perhaps poised to become the most powerful individual on the football operations side of the Eagles.
Just fine, thanks. Made really good time. Didn't hit traffic anywhere, which is pretty impressive since I drove past New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington in about a four-and-a-half-hour stretch. I'd tell you my secret, but honestly I have no idea. I left when I felt like I'd done enough work for the day.

Anyway, today's a new day. And you know how the new days start around here. With links.

Philadelphia Eagles

So I was driving past Philly around 4:45 pm ET on Monday when Michael Vick called into 97.5 FM for an interview. And it wasn't uninteresting. Sal Paolantonio, unaware of the coincidence of my travel plans, emailed me about the part of the interview in which Vick said, "Nothing is going to change about my game," and Sheil Kapadia wrote about the part where Vick laughed and said his ranking of No. 70 on the NFL Network's player-voted top 100 list was "a joke." Obviously, he's right on the last point. The idea that there are 69 better players in the league than Vick is insane. But I've already made clear what I think about that list.

Ashley Fox thinks that Andy Reid's increased power in the Eagles organization following the departure of Joe Banner increases, rather than eases, the pressure on Reid to win. I think Ashley is wise. The Eagles are planning for the future on the assumption that they have a big year in 2012, but I have little doubt that they'd change the plan if things went very poorly this season.

Washington Redskins

Want to know what Rex Grossman's still doing on the Redskins' roster? The Washington Times has you covered. I still say Grossman's the perfect backup for Robert Griffin III right now, since he knows the offense and could step in and play right away if Griffin got hurt. Yeah, he'd thrown interceptions, but there are far worse backup quarterback situations in the league than this one.

Matt Breen has a look at the chances of undrafted tight end Beau Reliford to make the Redskins' roster. So you're like, "Why a Beau Reliford link, Dan?" and I'm like, "Look, there's gonna be a ton of Redskins stuff on this blog over the next couple of days, probably none about Beau Reliford, and some of you guys like this dark-horse roster-candidate stuff." And it's June 12. So you know.

Dallas Cowboys

Calvin Watkins says Mike Jenkins will report to mandatory minicamp, which is good, since it's mandatory and missing it would cost him a lot of money, and I hate to see guys just throw away money in this day and age. Seriously, this isn't baseball, and while it'd be nice if NFL players had more contract leverage than they do, the best thing for Jenkins is to show up and bust his butt. The bad part about life as an NFL player is the lack of contract leverage. The good part is that, due to the violent nature of the game, playing time has a way of showing up for those who make sure they're ready for it.

Oh, and Adam Schefter thinks the Cowboys can make it to the Super Bowl Insider if they stay healthy. That's an Insider link, but Adam's reasoning centers on the fact that he's "always felt the Cowboys had more talent than their results indicated." I don't do June predictions unless forced, and I like Adam a great deal and consider it an honor and a pleasure to work with him. But let's just say I'm not as enthused about the 2012 Cowboys as Adam is.

New York Giants

Eli Manning says he's fired up to work with the offensive rookies in minicamp this week, and I believe him. Manning likes getting the most out of the players around him. He thinks that's part of his job, along with helping the little brothers of the world get revenge on their older siblings. Seriously, maybe now you'll treat your little brother with some respect, Peyton! Anyway, sorry. Don't know how that got off the rails. Manning has motivation to help guys like David Wilson and Rueben Randle develop quickly, and I believe he'll work hard to make sure they do.

I'd be surprised if anyone claimed Jake Ballard and his surgically repaired knee, and from what I understand Ballard is part of the Giants' long-term plans. So Monday's move was likely just procedural, and I think you can expect to see Ballard back catching passes from Manning at some point in 2013, whether Martellus Bennett works out or not.
Good morning to you all, and welcome to another week on the NFC East blog. We'll be taking the blog on the road this week, heading to Ashburn, Va., to cover Redskins minicamp Tuesday and Wednesday. But have no fear, fans of the other three teams. You know we'll have it all covered. We at ESPN.com will have Cowboys, Giants and Eagles minicamps fully staffed, and I will keep you posted on everything that's going on in those spots as well. Meantime, links.

New York Giants

Giants tackle David Diehl could be facing a suspension in the wake of his arrest Sunday for suspicion of drunken driving in Queens. This is an unfortunate story, as all of the drunk-driving stories are, and the one good thing here is that it appears no one got hurt. I can support all of the stuff in the story about Diehl as a person. He's a good guy. But even good guys make mistakes, and drunk driving is a selfish and inexcusable mistake, especially for NFL players, who have easy alternatives. If Diehl is guilty, his punishment will be warranted. And from a football standpoint, a suspension of Diehl for a game or two or three would be an unwelcome challenge for the already-thin-on-the-line Giants.

Earlier Sunday, Geoff Mosher wrote of his belief that the Giants are entering this 2012 season as a confident bunch for whom distractions shouldn't be a problem as they defend their Super Bowl title. Geoff's point stands, though the first media-availability day for which Diehl is back in the locker room won't be the least awkward in Giants history, either.

Philadelphia Eagles

How will the Eagles be different with Joe Banner out as team president? Jonathan Tamari examines GM Howie Roseman's negotiating style and offers a look at the potential change in the atmosphere throughout the organization under the new management structure.

The pressure being applied by the Eagles' aggressive defensive line during OTA practices so far has been a good test for quarterback Michael Vick as he works to learn when and in what situations he needs to slow down his feet.

Washington Redskins

How is Niles Paul's transition from wide receiver to tight end going? He feels it's going very well. He's drawing inspiration from a conversation he had with Shannon Sharpe, and he's of the belief that he will have a spot on the roster as one of the Redskins' tight ends by the time this season begins.

The safety position will be one of the most closely watched for the Redskins this offseason, and Rich Campbell recently took a look at the new pieces and how they may fit into Jim Haslett's scheme.

Dallas Cowboys

This came out late Friday, after I'd already checked out for the week, but it looks as though the Cowboys are bringing in veteran offensive lineman Pat McQuistan. My guess is he'd be a camp body or insurance in case Mackenzy Bernadeau's injury lingers longer than expected.

I guess I don't watch all the channels or read all of the sites where people are always ripping on DeMarcus Ware. But apparently Ware has himself run into some of that criticism, and he claims it's fueling him. My first thought was: How much Anthony Spencer criticism did Ware have to get through before he found any of himself?
Friday links, in alphabetical order by the team's 2012 training camp site.

New York Giants (Albany, N.Y.)

This is the story of a six-year-old fan who sent Brandon Jacobs $3.36 from his piggy bank in an effort to convince him to return to the Giants. And yeah, sorry, but sometimes I do wonder what it says about pro sports that the parts of it that makes no sense to kids are the parts we no longer even question.

The Giants go to the White House today, and ESPN3 will be streaming their visit live at 2:30 p.m. If you would like to watch it, this is the link. If you're looking to kill time until then, I'd suggest finding the full-length mashup of President Obama singing "Call Me Maybe."

Washington Redskins (Ashburn, Va.)

Wide receiver Leonard Hankerson and cornerback Josh Wilson will both be limited until training camp. Hankerson's coming back from last year's hip injury, and Wilson apparently has a thigh injury. Wilson is also referred to as a safety in that story, which makes me wonder if I missed something or if that's just a slip-up. Which is fine, obviously. We all slip up. I haven't heard anything to indicate a move of Wilson to safety, so don't sweat that one.

Chris Cooley says Robert Griffin III is "consistently getting better" as he learns the offense and moves through offseason workouts, and the reviews on the rookie quarterback continue to be nothing but glittering.

Philadelphia Eagles (Bethlehem, Pa.)

Outgoing Eagles team president Joe Banner mentioned the team's parting with Brian Dawkins among his regrets, and Dawkins had some stuff to say about the matter from his end, too, indicating his belief that parting with Banner and changing some things about the way they negotiate deals could be a good thing for the Eagles.

And I really thought Les Bowen's take on the whole thing was a thoughtful one -- the idea that perhaps the perception of the Eagles as filtered through Banner was starting to bug owner Jeffrey Lurie as much as anything else was. Regardless, interesting day at NovaCare, and we wait to discern what the ultimate implications of it all will be.

Dallas Cowboys (Irving, Texas, and Oxnard, Calif.)

Jean-Jacques Taylor is OK with Bruce Carter not having contributed anything last season, since he wasn't expected to. But he says that if the Cowboys are going to do anything this year, Carter's going to need to be a big part of it. I guess I'll agree that it would help if Carter made big strides and became a starter-caliber guy this year, but it still looks to me as though the Cowboys' plan is not to rush him.

Mackenzy Bernadeau says he's hoping to recover from his hip surgery in time for training camp, which would be nice for the Cowboys, especially if they want to find out if he can play center. Which is something I'd want to find out if I were them.

Is it possible to be simultaneously on the hot seat and gaining power? That appears to be the ostensibly contradictory circumstance in which Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid finds himself today. Reid is coming off of his most disappointing season, and yet the news of the day is that longtime team president Joe Banner is no longer the team president, and that Reid and GM Howie Roseman are now in charge of most of Banner's former responsibilities.

"The new team president will no longer be involved in the day-to-day operations of cap management, player negotiations and acquisitions," a senior team official told ESPN's Sal Paolantonio. "That will all now be the responsibility of Coach Reid and the general manager's office."

There have been indications this offseason -- the contract negotiations for DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy chief among them -- that this has already been the case for a while. Stories of Reid's increased involvement in contract talks and salary-cap matters have been floating around the league for months. Back in March, Sam Farmer of the L.A. Times wrote of a power struggle in the Eagles' front office in which Reid sought greater responsibility. The Eagles issued immediate and unsolicited attacks on that story, and even today they're insisting that the Banner move reflects a natural evolution of responsibility and not a power struggle.

[+] EnlargeAndy Reid
Brad Mills/US PresswireCoach Andy Reid (above) and general manager Howie Roseman will share the duties previously held by Joe Banner.
Whatever. They all lie, all the time, the people who run these teams, and we know this. We try our best to peek underneath the information and spin they're willing to give us and seek the real truth. Banner and Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie have been friends since before the moon landing. This isn't a move that gets made if everybody's happy and getting along with each other. It's a clear win for Reid, and the easy first reaction is that it makes him safer. If Banner was the guy saying Reid needed to win the Super Bowl to get a new contract (Reid's current deal runs through 2013), then the fact that Banner is out should be a good thing for Reid, right?

I'm not sure it's as simple as all of that. Lurie was obviously upset with the way 2011 went, and if 2012 goes as badly or worse, it's entirely possible the Eagles will change their evolutionary plan. Reid could be fired, or relieved of coaching duties and moved into a front-office position, or resign on his own to go coach the Chargers, or something. If the Eagles flop again and finish under .500, all bets are off.

But the key takeaway here is that the people running the Eagles are acting as though that will not happen. The people running the Eagles do not believe they will flop or finish under .500, or that they'll have to make a tough decision about Reid. The Eagles are running their organization with a long-term perspective, and on the assumption that 2012 will be a good year in which they field a strong contender and continue to build on Reid's long record of success as a head coach. Assuming that happens, 2011 becomes easy to regard as an aberration, and the plan can proceed in the way it's being outlined for us all today.

So in the case of Andy Reid, I think it is possible to be simultaneously on the hot seat and gaining power. His future with the Eagles likely is tied to the on-field performance of the 2012 team in a very significant way. But the fear of 2012 failure isn't keeping the Eagles from running the team the way they believe it should be run or expressing their faith in Reid as the right man for the job. Could something happen this year to change their minds? Yes. On the heels of last year's disappointment, that remains a possibility. It's just that the Eagles have decided not to let that possibility deter them from their long-range planning. They'll deal with it if they have to, but their hope and their belief is that they won't.
And a good Thursday morning to you all. Waking up to the news of the Eagles' front-office shakeup, with Joe Banner out as team president, and as soon as I process it I will have something posted later this morning. But it sure seems to me that Andy Reid's rush to deny that L.A. Times story a few months back had more than a little methinks-he-doth-protest-too-much aspect to it. The Eagles' offseason has longed seemed to be firmly in the hands of Reid and GM Howie Roseman, and today's news shows us that perception was a valid one. Still think Reid could be on shaky ground if they have a bad year, but assuming they don't, he and especially Roseman look like they've positioned themselves to have more power than ever going forward.

Meanwhile, today's goal is to not let things bother us as much as they did Wednesday. Say a little prayer for me, if that's your thing. My thing is links.

Washington Redskins

So the state of Virginia is throwing a bunch of money at the Redskins to get them to keep their operations there, and part of this is that they will hold training camp in Richmond starting in 2013. Mike Shanahan doesn't like having training camp in Ashburn, where the team has its regular-season practices, because football coaches hate when their players are comfortable and happy and around their kids all the time and stuff. So they'll go off and do some team-bonding exercises like they did in "Remember the Titans" and they'll supposedly be better for it. This assumes Shanahan's still the coach in 2013, of course, but I can't imagine they're only going to give him the one year with Robert Griffin III, even if that year is a huge disappointment.

Kirk Cousins likes what he's seen of Washington, D.C., and is cool with his backup role, he says. Believes he's got a good chance to pursue his goal of playing quarterback in the NFL from where he is. So that's good to know.

Dallas Cowboys

Remember the Dr. Seuss classic, "There's a Wocket in my Pocket?" Well, this story from Calvin Watkins about Lawrence Vickers and the ants in his pants reads a little bit like that. Only with more cringing.

Part of DeMarco Murray's training regimen this offseason includes mixed martial arts stuff, and you can take a look at him busying himself with it right here if you like.

New York Giants

The Giants are going away for training camp this year -- back to Albany after training last year in East Rutherford. And if you're planning on heading up there for any of it, here's the practice schedule. Tom Coughlin's planning to make them work in the heat of the middle of the day since he can no longer make them practice twice a day.

Coughlin got his contract extension Wednesday, and to hear John Mara tell it, the Giants actually wanted Coughlin to be their coach long before he actually was. As I tried to write yesterday but apparently didn't make clear, Coughlin's bulletproof as far as Giants ownership is concerned. And while, sure, there's a chance Giants fans get tired of him in the next three years if they don't keep winning, Giants ownership has made it clear that fan dissatisfaction isn't enough of a reason for them to make a coaching change. He'll coach the Giants as long as he wants to.

Philadelphia Eagles

Sheil Kapadia took a look at how Jeremy Maclin stacks up against the other five wide receivers taken in the first round in 2009. He fares pretty well, especially considering he's coming off a down, injury-plagued season. Only Hakeem Nicks among this group has been clearly better. Mike Wallace, the Steelers' third-rounder, has actually been the best wide receiver from the 2009 class, but obviously no one saw that coming or else he'd have gone earlier. Maclin's a guy to watch in 2012, for certain.

And we'll give our friend Jeff McLane some face time, as he offers a video discussing the competition for the backup running back spot. Which matters, since they'll need more from whoever's behind LeSean McCoy this year than they got from Ronnie Brown last year. That's right. I threw in a Ronnie Brown reference. Don't want you Eagles fans getting too happy in June.
We roll on, into another May week that will bring OTAs and more offseason fun here on the NFC East blog. And with a hat tip to Justin from B-More, we'll start varying the order of the links this week.

Washington Redskins

Tim Hightower played the free-agent field, sure, but he says Washington was always "home" and where he wanted to be all along. Now that he's home, of course, the question is whether he's healthy enough to hold up as the Redskins' starting running back.

Rich Tandler takes a look at the depth chart at wide receiver and tight end, where the Redskins face potentially tough decisions with Santana Moss and Chris Cooley. Rich seems to figure each will stick around, but it's obviously not a sure thing for either one.

Dallas Cowboys

Deon Grant said the Cowboys were one of the teams interested in him. Calvin Watkins asked around and found out that wasn't true. As much as I like Grant, a personable fellow whose accessibility and insight helped a great deal with several stories and columns late last season, I'm inclined to believe Calvin here, since he has less incentive to make his up. This could have been a Giants link, too, since I'm sure the Giants haven't ruled out Grant. (Again, personable guy. Good to have around.) But Ohm didn't write about it and Calvin did, and these are the links.

The guy everyone's talking about this week as a potential Laurent Robinson replacement is Andre Holmes, and Tim MacMahon explains why that is.

New York Giants

Lawrence Taylor's Super Bowl XXV ring, which was put on sale by Taylor's son and not Taylor himself, fetched more than $230,000 at auction. There was some foolishness Saturday with Osi Umenyiora saying he'd buy it if he got to 500,000 Twitter followers. I saw it, didn't think it was worth interrupting a May Saturday over. Osi has been very entertaining on Twitter in his short time there so far, but if he thought he was going to get from 20,000 to 500,000 in a day, he doesn't understand it very well. I mean, jeez. He's not Justin Bieber.

Jorge Castillo did a nice feature on German-born 26-year-old Giants rookie Markus Kuhn, to whom the game of football is still relatively new.

Philadelphia Eagles

Bleeding Green Nation looks at the members of the Eagles' 2010 draft class for whom 2012 is a "make it or break it" year, including Brandon Graham and Nate Allen, who are expected to be major contributors this season.

Les Bowen has an interesting column on the possibly changing dynamics of the Eagles' front office, in particular the role of team president Joe Banner, who seems to have been largely absent from the LeSean McCoy negotiations.
So, here's what we have on this Philadelphia Eagles thing today.

We have a report, from the well respected Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times, that paints coach Andy Reid in a power struggle with ownership and the front office and says that Reid wanted to pursue Peyton Manning when Manning became available:
[+] EnlargeAndy Reid
Jim O'Connor/US PresswireDid Andy Reid want to make a run at Peyton Manning? The Eagles' coach denies it.
Two NFL insiders, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic, said that Philadelphia Coach Andy Reid was ready to walk away from the Eagles if he didn't get more personnel control, and now he has it. We've seen a flurry of decisive moves by the Eagles in recent weeks, including finally cutting a blockbuster deal with receiver DeSean Jackson; extending two good soldiers, defensive end Trent Cole and right tackle Todd Herremans, outbidding the Ravens to keep guard Evan Mathis; and trading for Pro Bowl linebacker DeMeco Ryans.

Something else about the Eagles: Reid wanted to jump in the Peyton Manning sweepstakes, despite the signing of Michael Vick to a six-year, $100-million contract last season. Talks never got too serious, the insiders say, because Manning didn't like the idea of playing against his brother Eli, quarterback of the New York Giants, at least twice a season.

And we have a statement from Reid, released by the Eagles, that disputes pretty much everything Sam wrote:
"We look into everything, as all teams do. And I have the highest regard for Peyton Manning. But as I said publicly last month, that wasn't the direction we were heading in. Michael is our guy.

"As far as the personnel control, I have had final say on personnel matters for quite some time here and that's never been an issue or a point of contention.

"Our front office works very well together and that's one of our strengths."

So, couple of things on this:

I have no reason to doubt Sam's reporting, or the idea that people in the know told him exactly what he ended up reporting. But I question the conclusion, apparently reached by Sam's sources, that the Eagles' offseason moves reflect an assertion of greater control by Reid. Sure, the Eagles have acted less aggressively on the free-agent market this year than they did last year. But last year was the exception, and Reid has explained it many times by saying the team identified last year's offseason as a unique market with unique opportunities. The way the Eagles have acted this offseason is more in line with what they've done in the past, in a front-office structure that allows Reid final say in personnel decisions but in which he works closely with GM Howie Roseman and team president Joe Banner.

As for Manning, I don't think there's ever a situation in which a quarterback hits the market and Reid doesn't at least consider making a run at him. Remember, Vick didn't seem to make sense for the Eagles either when they got him. Reid believes strongly in the value of quarterbacks, in the importance of depth at the position and in his and his staff's ability to get the best out of any quarterback who enters their system. I'm certain that, once it became apparent that Manning was hitting the market, Reid and the Eagles' brass discussed the idea of pursuing him. I have no way of knowing how far such discussions progressed, but Reid seems intent on making sure everyone knows they never got serious.

The Eagles, like most high-profile professional sports teams these days, prefer to control the flow of information. They're generally pretty friendly about it, but they don't like it when their private plans or other business get aired in public. So while it seems odd to put out a statement denying Sam's report (because now, if they don't rush to deny the next such report, people will jump to the conclusion that it's true), it's in character for Reid and the Eagles to want to be out in front of this or any story about their team.

I'm not inclined to believe everything's hunky-dory between Reid, the front office and ownership in the wake of one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history. And I believe there's a lot of tension and pressure heading into this season, in which the pressure on Reid will be at an all-time high. But I don't believe Reid found himself, this offseason, in a position to demand greater control under threat of quitting. First of all, he already had a ton of control. And second of all, his job security's not at an all-time high to begin with. My sense is that there's a lot of behind-the-scenes chatter right now about the Eagles, who are one of the most intriguing teams and situations to watch in 2012, and that this isn't the last time some details are going to come to light and get shot down by people who'd like us to believe everything's peaceful and happy in Philly.

A couple of Saturday links

January, 28, 2012
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The New England Patriots play a 3-4 defense. Except when they play a 4-3. Vince Wilfork is a nose tackle. Except when he's playing defensive end. The Patriots' defense is an amoeba, and designed to be deceptive and confusing to opposing offenses. Ashley Fox took a look at what the New York Giants can expect to see from "that mad scientist in New England" in the Super Bowl a week from Sunday, and the ways in which the Giants are preparing for it.

Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora says he's only ever had two fights on the football field, and they've both been with Patriots tackle Matt Light. Umenyiora said he expects to "rekindle" things in the Super Bowl with Light, who "really gets under his skin." According to Mike Garafolo, Umenyiora joked that Light is more important to the Patriots than Umenyiora is to the Giants, "so if we both fight, we'll both get kicked out and JPP and Tuck will have a field day out there." Strategy!

Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan was asked on the radio about the idea of bringing Peyton Manning to the Redskins. Since Manning plays for another team, Shanahan's not really supposed to talk about whether the Redskins would pursue him. But he spoke in general terms about the idea of whether Manning would be appealing if he were to become available (which he almost certainly will). Kyle didn't exactly throw cold water on the idea, saying the only question he'd have would be health, and that "if the doctors say he's healthy, and he says he's healthy, then that's enough for me."

Paul Domowitch spoke to Philadelphia Eagles president Joe Banner about the upcoming free-agent class. I'm sure the words "Eagles" and "free agency" are still sending chills down the spines of the fans who remember how exciting last year's Eagles free-agent period went.

How about the Dallas Cowboys for Manning, huh? Apparently, this has been raised on the radio in Dallas, where I guess NBA basketball isn't enough to keep them busy this time of year and they have to think up crazy ideas like trading their best offensive player because the defense collapsed and gave away the season. Anyway, Todd Archer shoots it down, as he should.

Breakfast links: Jerry and Jason

December, 27, 2011
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T-minus five days until Giants-Cowboys for all of the NFC East marbles. How will we get there? We'll follow the links.

New York Giants

Giants coach Tom Coughlin was in a downright giddy mood as he addressed reporters Monday. He limped to the podium as a result of whatever leg injury he sustained when Giants running back D.J. Ware ran into him on the sideline Saturday, but he joked a lot about the injury -- even cracking that he'd had to cut Ware from the team for injuring him and said he doesn't plan for it to limit him in any way as he prepares for Sunday.

The Giants are hopeful they could get a trio of injured players -- defensive end Osi Umenyiora, wide receiver Mario Manningham and tight end Jake Ballard -- back in time for the division title game. But Monday was too early in the week to know for sure, and nothing more will be known on any of them until Wednesday's practice. Umenyiora did some sort of light work at the field house with a trainer Monday morning, but I can't vouch for the extent of it. Coughlin didn't sound real hopeful when asked about Umenyiora in his news conference.

Dallas Cowboys

Everything becomes an issue in Dallas, and so the fact that Jerry Jones showed up on the sideline during the first quarter Saturday obviously led some to conclude this had something to do with his opinion of Jason Garrett's coaching. Garrett says that's not the case, and the fact is there's no real reason not to believe him. Jones is a big believer in continuity at the head coaching spot. He's shown patience with every coach he's ever had but one, and he never misses a chance to talk about how much he regrets that one. Garrett's job is in no danger whatsoever, and frankly I can't understand why people keep insisting on talking as though it is.

Dez Bryant has a new agent, having switched from Eugene Parker, who shepherded him through the draft process and negotiated his rookie contract, to Drew Rosenhaus. Fans get panicky about what this means, when a player switches to Rosenhaus. But Bryant's not going anywhere for at least two more years anyway, and my guess is the only real impact this has is that Bryant will be extremely wealthy as long as he stays healthy and productive. But I guess you could have assumed that anyway.

Philadelphia Eagles

Bob Grotz strongly disagrees with Andy Reid's announced decision to play all of his starters in Sunday's season finale against the Redskins. In particular, Bob believes LeSean McCoy's injured ankle should keep him on the sideline. Bob feels so strongly about this that he thinks, if Reid won't sit McCoy down, team president Joe Banner should step in and order him to do it. If that were to happen, I believe it would portend bad things in the long term for the relationship between Reid and the team. Maybe even in the short term, honestly.

And Bob Ford thinks the Eagles are kidding themselves if they consider this season anything other than a failure, no matter how strongly they're finishing it. I mean, he's right, but what are they supposed to do? If they were hanging their heads and not trying, they'd be getting ripped for that. It's not ridiculous to think there might be some 2012 value in finishing 2011 with a stretch of games that allows these guys to feel like good football players again.

Washington Redskins

Mike Shanahan said Monday that the Redskins turned out to have less depth on the roster than he thought they had when he took over as coach in 2010. But one position at which he feels very deep is running back. With rookies Roy Helu and Evan Royster having impressed in the second half of this season and starter Tim Hightower due back from injury in time for next season, the Redskins should have a lot of options at running back going forward, which is a very good thing.

John Keim addresses the less-depth-than-Shanahan-thought thing and also the quarterback question in his notes. He thinks that Kyle Shanahan's recent talk about the importance of limiting turnovers sends a clear signal that the Redskins don't think Rex Grossman can be their starting quarterback again next year.

Eagles' front office: Why so quiet?

December, 11, 2011
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Sal Paolantonio has a column up that asks a very good question: "Why has the Philadelphia Eagles' front office -- general manager Howie Roseman, team president Joe Banner and team owner Jeff Lurie -- been silent in the face of such overwhelming public disenchantment with head coach Andy Reid?" Been wondering this a bit myself, and I agree with Sal's conclusion that it means one of two things:

1. Either they don't feel it's necessary to show Reid support because they've offered it privately and/or don't feel the need to legitimize the hysterical fan reaction to a season in which they're all surely at least as disappointed as the fans are.

2. They haven't decided yet what they're going to do.

All along, I have believed that it was the first thing. And it still may be. Reid has two years left on his contract, an outstanding record prior to this year and deserves a chance to come back in 2012 and try to right the 2011 wrongs. Look at the way a similar situation was handled last year a little further up I-95. Moments after the New York Giants' season ended last year, team owner John Mara told reporters that of course coach Tom Coughlin would be back. He'd told Coughlin the same thing weeks earlier, but nobody knew. Most times, these teams would rather we didn't know everything they're up to.

But as Sal writes, in Reid's case:
The level of public vitriol begs for response. Any business entity can't be happy when the public agenda is being dictated by outsiders with a constant drumbeat of anger and disapproval. It's PR 101: Don't let somebody else drive the message. Any politician will tell you that. Define yourself, or you will be defined.

Which is why option No. 2 can't be completely discounted. One-quarter of the season remains, and if the Eagles embarrass themselves four straight times the way they did in their most recent game, 10 days ago in Seattle, even a front office inclined to keep Reid might find itself re-thinking matters. Sal wonders what would happen if they did:
Would Reid find another head-coaching job elsewhere? Perhaps San Diego, if Norv Turner is dismissed as expected. Reid has a home in Los Angeles. His agent, Bob LaMonte, is based in the Bay Area and knows the California football market as well as anybody.

Would Reid move into the Eagles' front office and hire one of LaMonte's clients -- Jon Gruden -- to become the new head coach?

It's all speculation at this point, because the Eagles haven't told anybody anything. Either they think all of this anger directed at the winningest coach in their history is foolish and unworthy of a response, or they're listening and thinking about what to do. Either way, this is the dominant storyline of the remainder of this Eagles' season, which continues this afternoon in Miami.
It's getting to the point where I'm worried I'm going to injure my knee just by writing about these teams. Every day, a new knee injury in this division. Wednesday brought two, both in Dallas. Fact, I'm going to go put a brace on before I finish writing today's links, just in case...

Dallas Cowboys

Cornerback Mike Jenkins and rookie right tackle Tyron Smith both suffered hyperextended knees in practice Wednesday, calling the status of both players into question for Sunday night's season opener against the Jets in New Jersey. Reports earlier in the day indicated that Smith could be out 2-to-4 weeks, but Calvin Watkins is saying now it's possible the injury wasn't as serious as originally thought and that Jenkins and Smith could practice Thursday. That'd be good news for the Cowboys, but it's also the kind of thing a team wouldn't mind having out there publicly if it were very thin at cornerback and offensive line and was trying to bring in some players to help offset fresh injuries to those positions. Just saying.

Mac Engel has a radical idea, and he says he's serious: Bench Tony Romo for Week 1 because the Jets' defense is so fearsome and the Cowboys are too banged up in too many spots to protect Romo from serious harm. Basically, Mac's saying sacrifice the first game of the season (and maybe Jon Kitna's health) to save the final 15. I can see his point. I just don't think things are that dire. And what kind of precedent would it set? (Hint: Bad one.)

New York Giants

Rookie Greg Jones was the most popular guy in the Giants' locker room when it opened for media access Wednesday. Jones appears to be in line to start at middle linebacker in the wake of the injury to Jonathan Goff. He says he's ready, his teammates express confidence in him and the Giants insist that, while the knee injuries that have wracked their defense this preseason have shaken them up, they believe they have enough depth on the roster to handle them. We'll see. My thought is that Greg Jones may be very talented and a very good middle linebacker someday, but that taking a rookie who had no offseason program and making him your starting middle linebacker four days before the season starts is a recipe for trouble.

Devin Thomas said he's looking forward to playing against the Redskins and Mike Shanahan on Sunday, but that he harbors no ill will toward Shanahan for cutting him last year. Shanahan and Thomas spoke highly of each other Wednesday, with Shanahan saying he believed Thomas had the talent to be a star and Thomas saying the speech Shanahan gave him while cutting him helped inspire him to work harder.

Philadelphia Eagles

High hopes are one thing, and maybe even justified. But John Smallwood writes that the Eagles aren't even the favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl yet. John ranks them behind the two teams playing tonight.

Worried the team may not have enough quarters left in the piggy bank for a DeSean Jackson contract? Don't. Word is, the Eagles are still about $8 million under the salary cap, even after all of their offseason moves. I don't think that counts the new contract Joselio Hanson signed Wednesday, but there's no way he's eating up very much of it. Remarkable work Joe Banner does there in Philly with that cap.

Washington Redskins

Rich Campbell wonders whether this flare-up LaRon Landry had with the team's training staff over the hamstring setback that will keep him out of Sunday's opener represents a trend with the Redskins. Rich cites a list of ill-timed muscle pulls over the past year and says it's something to keep in mind.

Rick Maese checks in to see how John Beck is coping with losing out to Rex Grossman for the Redskins' starting quarterback job. Not surprisingly, Beck is upbeat, positive, optimistic and eager to talk about it. He's also surely smart enough to know that he's likely to get his chance at some point this year if he shows any kind of improvement week-to-week in practice.

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